R.I.P. USS Kitty Hawk, the Navy’s Last Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier

“The current U.S. Navy carrier fleet is entirely nuclear powered, consisting of ten Nimitz-class carriers and USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class. The Navy prefers nuclear-powered aircraft carriers as they don’t require fuel oil and have essentially unlimited range. A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier can depart immediately to deal with an international crisis without having to top off with fuel. The use of nuclear power also lessens the burden on the Navy’s logistics fleet to keep carriers moving.”

A $4.4 billion US destroyer was touted as one of the most advanced ships in the world. Take a look at the USS Zumwalt, which has since been called a ‘failed ship concept.’

“Despite their cost, the Zumwalts have been plagued by equipment problems. Soon after its commissioning in 2016, the USS Zumwalt broke down in the Panama Canal. The second ship in its class, the USS Michael Monsoor, failed during sea trials the following year.

As a 2018 report from Military Watch Magazine noted the Zumwalts “suffered from poorly functioning weapons, stalling engines, and an underperformance in their stealth capabilities, among other shortcomings.”

“They have almost entirely failed to fulfill the originally intended role of multipurpose destroyer warships, while the scale of cost overruns alone brings the viability of the program into question even if the destroyers were able to function as intended,” the outlet said.

The Zumwalts lack several vital features, including anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, and long-range area-air defense missiles, the military expert Sebastian Roblin wrote in a 2021 National Interest article. Roblin called the destroyers an “ambitious but failed ship concept.”

And, noted Roblin, their weaponry wasn’t cheap. The ship’s long-range land-attack projectile guided shells cost roughly $800,000 each — about the same price as a cruise missile. The munitions were eventually canceled, considered too pricey to merit producing.

Roblin said the Zumwalt was produced based on “unrealistic” estimates that banked on minimal cost, despite coming in 50% over budget.”

What’s killing the world’s biggest fish?

“The largest fish on Earth is a shark. Capable of reaching a length of up to 60 feet — roughly the height of a four-story building — whale sharks, named for their size, are so large that they make great whites look like minnows.

But even giants can disappear. Over the last several decades, more than half of all whale sharks have vanished from the ocean. Some populations have fallen by more than 60 percent.”

“A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that cargo ships are likely a leading cause of whale shark deaths. Often, where you find high densities of these endangered fish, you also find shipping traffic, the authors found, and ships are already known to strike and kill these animals.”

“Whale sharks are not the only roadkill. Vast cargo vessels harm many species of marine giants, such as the endangered North Atlantic right whales, and some smaller creatures, like sea turtles. Ships also emit loud noises that disrupt marine life and spew planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“Shipping is a serious problem for giants of the sea,” said Robert Harcourt, a marine ecologist at Macquarie University in Australia who was not affiliated with the study. “We have an economy that’s derived from moving things around the world in a way that’s not taking into account the cost to the environment.””

“A good step toward decreasing collisions is figuring out where animals are most at risk, and that’s where this new whale shark study comes in. Large ships are required to report their locations, and the authors compared those points to the movement of hundreds of whale sharks, which they had previously tagged with satellite trackers. (This is no easy feat: “You’ve gotta have some nice long fins, a good pair of lungs, and sprint after it underwater,” said David Sims, a marine ecologist at the University of Southampton and a study co-author.)

The results revealed just how vulnerable these fish are: More than 90 percent of the ocean’s surface area that whale sharks use overlaps with the routes of tankers, passenger ships, and fishing vessels. Whale sharks tend to congregate near the coast, where shipping is especially busy”

“many of the sharks’ tracking devices stopped working when the animals entered busy shipping lanes, perhaps because they were killed by ships. (Some trackers even showed sharks swimming into dense shipping routes and then sinking slowly to the seafloor — “the smoking gun for a lethal ship strike,” as Womersley and Sims wrote in The Conversation.)”

“Making oceans safer for marine giants is conceptually simple, and one option is to route ships away from animal hot spots.”

“Even just slowing ships down can make a huge difference. The chance that a cargo ship will kill a whale falls to below 50 percent when it’s moving at around half speed (10 knots, or 11.5 miles per hour), compared to nearly 100 percent when it’s moving more quickly, according to one 2006 study.”

“there’s a big drawback to ships slowing down or going on a different route: It takes longer to deliver goods. That’s one reason studies like this don’t always translate into shipping restrictions. That drawback also makes alternative approaches, such as designing quieter ships or adding wildlife deterrents or propeller guards, appealing (although the benefits of these technologies aren’t well established).”

Biden Administration Affirms Support for Protectionist Jones Act, Throwing Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans to the Sharks

“Biden made it abundantly clear that he supports the Jones Act, a 1920 federal law that requires that cargo ships traveling between American ports be made in America and owned and crewed by American citizens”

“The Jones Act is an absolutely terrible law, designed purely for protectionist measures, that shields maritime companies and unions in the United States from competition. The consequence of the Jones Act is that a foreign commerce ship that goes to states like Hawaii or Alaska or to territories like Puerto Rico can engage in domestic trade in only one American port. It can travel to other American ports but cannot take on or deliver goods unless it goes to a foreign port and then returns. A vessel from Japan that’s heading to Los Angeles cannot also stop in Hawaii along the way and engage in commerce, despite the logical economic efficiencies in doing so.”

“The end result of this restrictive law is that only two percent of U.S. freight is transported by sea, despite our long coasts, our many ports, and island states and territories. It’s in part why we have to depend so much on trucks and trains for transporting goods, even along coastal regions. Cato notes that internal shipping is about half the volume it was in 1960, while rail and truck commerce both saw dramatic increases.

Nowhere are the burdens of the Jones Act more apparent than in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These restrictions distort market forces and significantly drive up the costs to transport goods to these places. The New York Fed calculated that it can cost twice as much to ship something from the American mainland to Puerto Rico as it does to nearby island nations like Jamaica. Puerto Rico actually imports jet fuel from other countries rather than the Gulf Coast because it’s just too expensive to get Jones Act-compliant vessels.

There’s no need to exaggerate the impact of the Jones Act on domestic transport costs because whenever a disaster comes around, like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, the government will temporarily waive the Jones Act’s requirements so that the costs of recovery aren’t quite as back-breaking.”

“”Among the obstacles to Jones Act reform is the complex web of special interests that benefit from preservation of the status quo. Among Jones Act supporters are U.S. shipbuilders, merchant mariners, various maritime unions, and those who actually believe the law is essential to national security.””

US Navy needs to have more than 500 ships by 2045 to have edge against China and Russia

“The Navy wants to double its number of submarines as part of a modernization plan to build more than 500 ships by 2045 to maintain a competitive edge against other naval powers such as China and Russia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said”

“Esper said the need to modernize the Navy is in part due to China’s own naval modernization and shipbuilding efforts. The Pentagon’s China report released Sept. 1 determined the country aims to have a “world-class” military on par with the United States by 2049. It already has the largest navy in the world at 350 ships. The United States now has 296 deployable battle force ships, according to the Navy.”

“The first priority of that plan is to have a large number of attack submarines, with a target of 70 to 80 submarines overall. This will require the Navy to build at least three next generation Virginia-class submarines every year “as soon as possible,” Esper said. The Navy now has more than 40 operational attack submarines, according to Pentagon documents.”

“Large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers also will be part of the future Navy, still considered the force’s “most visible deterrent,” he said. The Navy is also looking at “light carriers,” such as the USS America amphibious assault ship that can go to sea with vertical takeoff and landing aircraft including the F-35B fighters and the MV-22 Osprey. These light carriers would free up the bigger carriers for more of the “critical high-end fight,” Esper said.”

“Unmanned naval vessels have been discussed in a number of congressional hearings about the future of the Navy and they are included in the Battle Force 2045 plan. Esper said the future force will have between 140 to 240 unmanned and “optionally manned” surface and subsurface vessels that can perform a variety of missions including surveillance, mine-laying and missile strikes.”

“Congressional help will also be necessary to make the plan work. Esper said he wants lawmakers to stop using continuing resolutions to fund the defense budget and allow the military to divest from legacy systems so that the funds can be put towards “higher priorities.” He also said he will request that the Navy have the authority to put any end-of-year budget savings towards shipbuilding instead of the losing money when it is not spent.”